COVID-19 vaccines are not associated with an increased risk of sudden death, according to a study by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) that assessed data from 39 network hospitals across the country. In fact, vaccination reduced the risk of sudden death, that is, deaths in people who were apparently healthy or who had been discharged from the hospital less than 24 hours ago.
Sudden deaths mainly occur due to heart diseases such as irregular heartbeat, obstruction of blood flow to the heart muscles, and a condition in which the heart muscle loses its ability to pump blood efficiently, among others.
The study was commissioned by the country’s top health research organization earlier this year after reports linking the deaths to vaccination. It is based on 729 deaths recorded in apparently healthy people aged 18 to 45 between October 2021 and March 2023. The data was compared with that of 2,916 healthy individuals of the same age, sex and gender. living in similar conditions. Last month, Union Health Minister Dr Mansukh Mandaviya had referred to this study while cautioning people who had recovered from a severe bout of COVID-19 against engaging in physical activity during Garba dances.
“There was a lot of apprehension among the population regarding vaccines, which led to an increase in sudden deaths. Several reports were coming out. It was therefore important to undertake this study and show empirically that sudden death is not linked to vaccination,” explains Dr Manoj Murhekar, corresponding author of the study.
So what increased the risk in this case?
Although the study exonerated vaccines, it says that a severe case of COVID-19 requiring hospitalization increases the risk of sudden death. In fact, those who died suddenly were four times more likely to have had severe COVID-19. Vaccination could have been a protective shield. “The reduced risk following COVID-19 vaccination could possibly be due to the protection offered by vaccination against gravity,” the study said.
What are the real risk factors that we are neglecting?
The study identified a family history of sudden death, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and vigorous-intensity exercise as other risk factors for sudden death. According to the study, a patient with a family history of sudden death was almost three times more likely to be associated with sudden unexplained death. Current smoking habits were almost twice as likely to be associated with sudden deaths and excessive alcohol consumption 48 hours before the cardiac event was six times more likely to increase risks, the study found. Vigorous physical activity 48 hours before an episode was also nearly three times more likely to be linked to sudden death.
“This fits with what we already know. It is well documented that a family history of sudden death, excessive alcohol consumption, recreational drug use, and engaging in physical activity that one is not accustomed to are associated with sudden deaths,” explains Dr Murhekar.
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How does COVID-19 impact heart health?
The study says “the pathways by which COVID-19 can cause sudden deaths are currently not well understood,” but adds that studies elsewhere have shown that infection could lead to an increase in heart disease and accidents. cerebral vascular diseases by various mechanisms, including viruses. attacking heart muscle cells and the lining of blood vessels.
As Dr Rakesh Yadav, professor of cardiology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, says: “Although rare, cases of COVID-19 infection have been reported damaging the heart muscles and leading to cardiomyopathy (a condition in which the heart muscles cannot pump blood effectively). Heart attacks are common due to the infection which increases the tendency for clotting. It is also known to cause electrical abnormalities such as tachycardia (rapid heartbeat) or autonomic dysfunctions such as a sudden increase or decrease in blood pressure and pulse rate. This is why patients should follow up with their doctor.
How many studies has ICMR conducted?
This is one of three studies. Another study conducted in August at 31 hospitals found that 6.5% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 died the following year. He said 17.5 percent of these recovered patients faced lethargy and shortness of breath. The results of the third study aimed at studying clotting events following COVID-19 vaccination in 18 to 45 year olds are also awaited.
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